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Kevin Mattson Education. (2012) 'Just Plain Dick Richard Nixon's Checkards Speech and the Rocking, Shocking Election of 1952.' (CC)

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Richard Nixon 26, Eisenhower 11, Us 9, Adlai Stevenson 9, Dwight Eisenhower 7, Nixon 7, Obama 5, Kevin Mattson 5, Pat Nixon 4, John Wayne 4, Whittaker 4, Oregon 3, Ohio 3, Kevin 3, Hollywood 2, Hawaii 2, Texas 2, Korea 2, New York 2, Egghead 2,
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  CSPAN    Book TV    Kevin Mattson  Education.  (2012) 'Just Plain Dick Richard  
   Nixon's Checkards Speech and the Rocking, Shocking Election...  

    January 1, 2013
    6:00 - 7:00pm EST  

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as they call it, and the way that people support each other and love each other across the generations i think is very inspiring and it's also to me a testament of how leadership really happens in this country. it happens everywhere else and i think the support in the love that people showed to father brooks in this process that they have shown for these men and an appreciation for how difficult was to be pioneers on that campus i hope is a story that we will continue to come back to again and again. as a reporter i had to say given the support i got from holy cross i want every story from now on to be based on the holy cross campus. so thank you very much. thank you again for supporting this book. i don't think it does justice to the period to father brooks but
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i hope at least it's a start and that others will come forward and continue to tell the story. >> you can watch this and other programs on line at booktv.org. >> next kevin mattson recounts the presidential election of 1952 and richard nixon's checkers speech delivered on national television on -- the speech was given in response to allegations that nixon misuse political donations. the author recounts nixon's usage of this family dog checkers to denote his every man status and save his vice presidential nomination. this program is about an hour. >> good evening everybody. before we begin if it's okay to come up closer, it's not church, synagogue or a mosque. mosque. i am very pleased that our friends from c-span are here, so
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this will be broadcast at some point, sooner than later i am sure. they always do a great job and i want to welcome c-span again to politics and prose. it has added to -- c-span has added to our civil discourse and whatever bookstores you come to, they are generally independent and c-span is really wonderful. i want to welcome tonight kevin mattson. we are celebrating the publication of his book, "just plain dick." how many of you were around when the checkers speech was given? and i am sure many people in the audience tonight will also have
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been around in the tv audience. it brings back a lot of memories, and it is particularly appropriate that this is the night before an election and this book is about the 1952 election and an american context of the 1952 election and kevin mattson will tell us about it. but you know there is a nice tradition in and politics and prose of having wonderful stuff the night before the election. we were talking 12 years ago with a discussion of arguing the world between a discussion with daniel bell, irving kristol, urban howe, matt glaser and four years ago we had a new york review book and some of the contributors, elizabeth drew, michael tomasky, jonathan krieg landed and others were talking about the problems that whoever
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the new president would be was likely to face. and anticipating an obama win that night, there was some prescience about the use of the filibuster to block consideration of things. said tonight we will get some historic perspective. i have had the good fortune to read a lot of kevin mattson's books and he is a wonderful historian of post-war liberalism. he tells it in ways that are very perceptive. he avoids fashionable trends to make sure he gets underneath things, so he is not a revisionist. and he writes about other periods as well, including participatory democracy and the
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progressive era, and upton sinclair. i am sure many of you have read the jungle and we are all too young to remember, and poverty in california his gubernatorial campaign but kevin, kevin provides a rich, rich history of 20th century american history in the context of our larger scheme of things. so let's welcome kevin mattson and "just plain dick." [applause] >> the thanks for that wonderful introduction. it's always a pleasure to be a politics and prose, one of my favorite places to be. what i will do is talk for a little while and obviously be eager to entertain questions that you might have about the book.
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and about its relationship to contemporary politics and what have you. what brought me to write this book was, i had always heard the trend checkers -- the term checkers throughout my life, checkers speech or something like that and i really wanted to understand what that meant and understand the speech in its origins and also to put it in a kind of wider context. so that is what i really began with. i think in some ways it's one of the most important speeches in post-war american history and it certainly had a lot to do with explaining the rise to richard nixon and that in and of itself tells us that it had a lot to do with a lot about contemporary politics because of nixon and our contemporary political culture. with that said, what i really wanted to do was i wanted to write history in the form of a novel. all the characters are real. the events are real. but i wanted to tell it from a
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novelist's perspective. it has at its center a madman. in fact i originally wanted to have madman in the title or the subtitle of the book. my editor frowned upon that. i am actually using the term not the way nixon will later use it to describe or in policy but actually in the way that holden caulfield describes it in the classic novel the catcher in the rye which documents itself a progression towards a nervous breakdown. richard nixon is undergoing a nervous breakdown during the story. he is thinking of himself kind of in that sense of being mad and all the connotations that term has any knows that he is on the cusp of either making or breaking his national political career. is the moment in which he rescues his political career from that moment on. it's a real -- feeling to a large extent and i think that has to do with the subject matter. richard nixon is an edwardish character, kind of dark in terms
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of psychology and i also wanted to kind of call of holiday suspense story again trying to write history as a novelist would ideally do. there is a tight internal structure to the book. it's kind of a slice of history, looking at a moment. it starts with nixon's rise to national popularity and eventually being put on the ticket during the spring of 1952. it follows the conventions of the summer. these conventions were one of the last set of conventions where things were actually determined during a convention even though television is starting to take over conventions and conventions are starting to become more scripted. there is actual serious political decision-making going on at these conventions and i go into the scandal in september that becomes the basis for why nixon has to give this speech. and then obviously the speech itself is kind of a culmination of the book or at least the highpoint of the book because the book then also follows out
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the election itself, which has some of you probably know was a landslide election for the republican party in 1952. it's clearly a transformative election where the republicans seize the presidency wish they hadn't had for quite some time. nixon undergoes a transformation about the story and begins a kind of nervous, what i called inside -- trying to kind of navigate his way in national politics. humus from being a nervous person, approaching a nervous breakdown to becoming a supreme confidence man. a person who feels confidence in his own salesmanship of politics. is all ideally good novels have, this has a great i think set of secondary characters. nixon is enough to sustain a book but there are also some really wonderful secondary characters. dwight eisenhower himself who comes off as a kind of sad and tragic figure in the book.
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he starts off as kind of a general on the whitehorse and comes back to redeem the republic and
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about where she talks about her being a normal suburban housewife. but there is also a fascinating thing about pat nixon and that is that she is weirdly open about the fact that she doesn't really seem to like politics and seems to have some even trepidation about being with her husband. she writes an article, a puff piece for her husband that has a title, a wonderful guy in which she has this quote that i make a lot of which she says dick doesn't do anything in a half-hearted manner so i know we are in for a rugged time. this isn't a piece that is supposedly a celebration of her husband's virtues and yet she is kind of saying she is worried about him, about what her life is going to be and things like that. to get a real sense that with both eisenhower and pat nixon that politics transforms people in sometimes ways that they don't necessarily want.
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another characters joseph mccarthy. he is running in 1952 for re-election. is kind of tough man veneer, the sort of macho character that he projects is also one that i think in some ways richard nixon wants to a certain extent mimic and invite as his own. it's during this campaign that joseph mccarthy makes one of the most vicious and i think in some ways it's a vicious election and i have that part of the story but with mccarthy, during 1952 election, he comes up with this amazing quote recess if somebody would only smuggle me aboard the time it at a campaign special with a baseball bat in my hand, i teach patriotism to little ad life. that is what he called adlai stevenson and i will get to him. you call them add light or sometimes he called them alger with the idea that he is like alger hiss, communist spy at the
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time. there is also whittaker chambers and the great american theologian who helped to kind of advise nixon about in some ways his political philosophy so a a lot of behind-the-scenes guys are giving advice to richard nixon to go straight to the media to engage in what we would call telepopulism and there's also this surprise cameo of charlie chaplin who is operated out of the country in 1952 as a part of the larger red scare. nixon wanted him out of the country and was taking his cues from a wild gossip column at the time named had a hopper who was a friend of nixon who enters a little bit in there is also another central character. the foil to richard nixon and dwight eisenhower and that is adlai stevenson himself. he's important in the story to guess he is a proponent. stephenson becomes throughout the course of this it very fade
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egghead, and intellectual entering politics. he has a very noble vision of politics. i think anybody here will be kind of surprised by them. in his acceptance speech in 1952 convention, he talks to fellow democrats and he says, we shouldn't just worry about winning the election. we have to worry about how it is one, how would we can take advantage. how well he can take advantage of this great opportunity to debate issues sensibly and soberly. better we lose the election than mislead the people. it's time to talk sense to the american people. noble as all get out but also you know kind of sending a softball across richard nixon and dwight eisenhower's plate that they knocked out of the park, which they do. this is also a campaign in which adlai stevenson the democratic candidate is shot from below on the stage and there's a hole in his shoe and grand speculation as to what did the whole in
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issue mean. he's a guy who never really gets control over the situation in the course in the end toulouse is. the book is written like a novel with the characters entering in and out of the central character undergoing a nervous breakdown. i do make a fair amount of richard nixon psychology and i know that is not fashionable nowadays to psychologizing character but hey it's richard nixon. if anybody deserved to be psychologizing it's richard nixon and in fact i open the book up by trying to imagine myself getting inside the mind of richard nixon, during his campaign. i'm just going to read one paragraph. this is where i'm trying to say, this is what it would have been like if you could read his brainwaves in 1952. i tried to put myself in his mindset. a lot of what is he is experiencing is a career crisis and anybody who also had a career crisis can do some method acting and get into what it must have been like for this young man on the rise.
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here's the first paragraph of my imagined internal monologue. the want me out. they want to sack my political career. they don't have much on it but they will use what they have. that's how they play in the press. hear him here i am slumping in a chair on my train, just rattling along heading out of california towards the saudi center of oregon and all i'm hearing from that little man is advice and fumes about my enemies is that the press is going with a wild with the thing. the left-wing smear sheet in new york post, secret which man's trust fund keeps nixon and style far beyond his salary. that was one headline. and that in many ways is the point at which the prices being instigated. i'm trying to get into the mindset of richard nixon and tell the story in part through his eyes and his own experience and to a certain extent being sympathetic towards a guy who is undergoing a nervous breakdown
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and a career killing moment in what he takes to be a very important and we all take to be a very important political career. so i wanted to use the novelistic approach but i also wanted to tease out some themes by telling the story and what i figured i would do now is just kind of tell you about some of the big themes of interest to people who i think go to places like politics and prose and are interested in brought debates about politics and ideas. it's very clear that, i mean, this speech that nixon gives in this moment in american history has a lot to tell the contemporary political world. one thing to keep in mind about the checkers speech is that nixon will be asked later in life, so what do you think about the checkers speech? people still remember you by the checkers speech even after your your presidency is waned and he
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always said the checkers speech was my moment. it would make or break. if i saw through the other side of that speech and i failed my entire political career was ruined. i would not be on the national political stage. but it's really a very crucial moment in his career and an important and crucial moment in america's history. big theme that you see in this speech and the broader story working through the election are kind of i think a force there will be focusing on and i will be very brief on each of them to give enough time for questions. first off, the obvious background of the cold war and there's a kind of new style of conservative visioning of foreign-policy that i will explain. directly related to that, there is an enormous divide within the republican party in 1952. that shouldn't surprise any of us. this has always been a very
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divided party but the tension within the republican party that speech in the election are very important. the third thing that i think is perhaps most important is the american tradition of populism and what richard nixon is doing to the populace tradition throughout the election. the fourth and final thing is the kind of -- the subtitle of the book is about the rocking socking election in 1952 and that is nixon's conception of how politics should be. should be about being tough and i think that has a long ranging impact on the way we think about politics today. let me just go through these four issues briefly and kind of elaborate on each bit. with the cold war, there is an obvious background that's going on throughout the book and the obvious thing that is happening is that we are in the midst of the korean war. the korean war is a war that by this point in time is two years old. doesn't seem to have any end in
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sight and the body count is going up. is one of the many reasons why harry truman is not a very popular president as he is leaving the white house, planning on going to the white house. dwight eisenhower were during the election, during his campaign will make a famous statement in which he says i will go to korea and most people think that's what pushes the election in that direction that he definitely had it sewn up at the time he uses these words. it's kind of similar to what nixon will later do in his career which is in 68, i have a secret plan to end the vietnam or. dwight eisenhower didn't really have anything in mind other than to say i will go to korea and i will settle the war. you don't have to worry about the war if i'm elected president. is also a huge debate going on about how to fight the cold war that this book examines throughout the course of this electoral cycle. i don't deal much with the liberal containment side of this vision. that's a vision of adlai stevenson or jane ashton.
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that is not as prominent in this book. i'm more interested in sort of the hypercharged emotionalism that conservatives brought to foreign-policy and the way they conceptualize fighting the cold war. you hear this sort of hypercharged emotionalism throughout the story that i tell in this book. mostly when richard nixon is consistently attacking acheson and adlai stevenson. yakir lot of language about rollback and liberatioliberatio n. these are the two big key words and a lot of republican, conservative republican discourse about foreign-policy and in fact white eisenhower uses the term crusade throughout the campaign and some people start thinking, is he alluding to those things like the crusade? is that how he is conceptualizing his uniform policy? to a certain extent guess that he is also trying to tack to the center. one of the key allies of richard nixon, again is discussed here
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because this big vote comes out during the spring of 1952 is whittaker chambers who writes this melodramatic witness and richard nixon does a great deal when richard nixon was taking down alger hiss. whittaker chambers was the key person providing testimony and nixon does a lot to promote whittaker chambers book. it's interesting to note how chambers conceptualizes the cold war in witness that comes out in 1952 and i will just quote a quote from the book. for chambers to westhead discover and a quote in suffering and pain of power of states which will provide man's mind at the same intensity with the same certainties that communism provided. that is a reason to live in a reason to die. if it fails, if the west fails, this will be the century of the great social wars. if it succeeds this will be the century of the great wars of
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faith. there's a real attempt to put the cold war onto a religious basis, onto a fervent emotional basis and that is something that richard nixon is very big on in terms of the support of whittaker chambers and his attack on stevenson and acheson. it's clearly articulated by mccarthy at, again another character bring into the narrative who was also a chief ally of richard nixon and to eisenhower is still uncomfortable and awkward around and yet will go in campaign with mccarthy, very willing to do something that some people thought was below him. the way you fight matters more than the fight itself. it's the style, the style in which if it really matters a great deal. you want to hate your enemy heart and one of the things i make a fair amount out of in the book -- though i'm a historian who likes to kind of go you
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know, i guess i'm something of a political historian but also someone who's interested in pop culture and the way pop culture comes into our politics. one of the chief people to tease out this emotionally charged tough vision of fighting the cold war as john wayne. john wayne goes independent in 1952, breaks from the system and makes it very -- has anyone seen big jim mcclain? it's a great movie to go and cnn fact if you have time tonight, if you go to youtube and click into the box, john wayne beats up commies, you will get the final scene of big jim mcclain and you can watch it. it's truly an enjoyable moment. the storyline of big jim mcclain which comes out during this time the election is kind of heating up and by the way john wayne is a political character. is very big in reelecting
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mccarthy movement. he is often asked after the tend -- convention, what do you think about the ticket and mccarthy says perfectly, i think dick nixon moment to find vice president. no mention of eisenhower because he doesn't really like eisenhower and doesn't fill comfortable with eisenhower. that is the person that wayne is the biggest and supporter. dick jim mcclain comes in 1950 to come the story of a tough guy, big jim and constantly member -- mentions that his six feet three inches on many occasions. he is working for the house un-american activities committee, big jim and big jim goes out to hawaii to break up a communist spy ring mostly made up of doctors in hawaii. in and what he does is defined for these guys are having their meeting and rushes into the meeting and quite literally beats the communists up using
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his fists, a big fight. whited in spires is he follows the story out and he says they went back and they -- and i got off. he starts to say something along the lines of you know maybe the constitution isn't all that great. maybe the congressional committees aren't the best thing to do. maybe we should bare knuckle it with the communist. maybe we need to have few less congressional committees investigating and is that style of -- dewayne personifies and mccarthy exemplifies in numerous ways. richard nixon tries to take up and make a part of his own view of the cold war. and in fact when the first scandal breaks that richard nixon is getting money and wealthy businessmen, to fund his campaign, one of the first thing's richard nixon does is hit the communist bloc. these are communists who are out
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to get me and if i won out and hit it hard against the cons they will come back and get me and you guys are not coming back to get me. most people try to encourage him not to take that tact because there is no basis for it but there are funny things where during a protest, young kid from your old organization, americans for democratic action, pulls up a sign that says anyone who mentions the $16,000 as the communist. that is the tactic at richard nixon takes. ifalpa martyr now they're coming back to get me. that explains why this scandal has emerged away the scandal has emerged. and yet you also notice if you follow richard nixon, this is one of the things i got out of the arcade -- archival research that it did for the book. i came across a speech that richard nixon mates after he had the checkers speech and i will get to that and when he is kind of feeling kind of strong about his standing. he goes to oregon and he has
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this line in a speech that i don't think gets much treatment in other stories about the 1952 election. he is in oregon and makes us while speech. he says consider where we are in the pacific northwest. let me tell you that other koreans could come even closer. they could reach into our country's heart line. they could bring the bombing in the carnage right here if our disasters and hope to. only dwight eisenhower could stop this obviously. only dwight eisenhower could stop the impending invasion eye of the mouth of the colombian river or one stage out of anchorage alaska. this is a guy who is at his moment where he is becoming increasingly paranoid about what's going on. this is a guy who thinks the invasion of the united states is imminent and he is warning his listeners that this could actually happen. this is the vision of the cold war that i keep trying to trace out by telling a story and i think it's a long-lasting story.
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this is not a vision of foreign policy that is dropped out of the republican party by party by any means. if anything i think it's gotten in fact much. there's also struggle within the republican party. this is the second issue that i will talk about briefly. it's not just about the foreign-policy debate which there are people who are trying to go towards the left militaristic vision of the cold war and towards the kind of center. it's also a real hard-line, right-wing outlet within the republican party that most clearly survived in robert taft's run for the presidency against eisenhower during the campaign. taft as we all know loses but he is an interesting conversation in which he says to eisenhower after congratulating him, that the theme that he once eisenhower to pursue is that liberty is being threatened by creeping socialism in every domestic field. that there is the kind of
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totalitarianism that is invading american politics and in fact eisenhower takes this language up much more than i think we really realize, this sort of hard right strip the new deal because the new deal is interchangeable with the version of socialism or totalitarianism. this becomes especially difficult, sort of hard-line language becomes especially difficult once nixon have to face up to the thing that gets him into trouble which is a problem we would put in the category of campaign finance problems that he is taking money by people who have a direct interest in shaping american politics. this kind of tension within the republican party vote on foreign policy but also on domestic policy is a big part of the story. the main part of the story is populace and its popular strain in american politics. this brings us to the heart of the the speech in with a speech i think is in so many ways really about. as you all know, the checkers
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speech is synonymous with richard nixon richard nixon saying i meant every man, i'm an ordinary guy. these are the lines we remember from the speech, the lines of most people will "back betty was the republican -- code that his wife pat nixon were that the truman administration has been bribed by people bringing mink coats into the white house. i'm an ordinary guy. pat would look wonderful in anything. a lot of the speeches, as some people remember it, sometimes it's hard to remember that a lot of it is just documenting what he has and what he possesses, his car, his house and then of course the dog. the dog is at the center of his kind of attempt to make himself into an ordinary, average male, the central man of the whole speech. checkers the dog is the character that is obviously
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central to the speech and it's during the speech that when he is giving the speech, i have watched the speech so many times that i can almost do it verbatim. but he has transitioned and he does this thing where he pinches his nodes. he goes like this and he goes one of the thing i probably should tell you because of it don't -- [inaudible] man down in texas and pat mentioned archie answers would like to have a dog. believe it or not the day before we left he got a message from the union station saying they had a package for us. we went down to get it and you know what it was? it was a cocker spaniel dog in a crate that they sent texas, black-and-white spotted in her little girl tricia, 6-year-old girl, named it checkers. kids like all kids love the dogs and i want to say there is this charleston heston that regardless of what they say we are going to keep him. that is of course a central thing that nixon talks about and
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where it gets a name for the speech itself. nixon was very knowingly taking a line from fdr's famous speech in which he incorporates his own dog and nixon thought it would be great to kind of like make the democrats mad by taking their leader's words and flipping them around. what nixon is doing throughout the speech is very clear to me. he said he is divorcing the populist tradition rooted in the 19th century among small farmers and trying to channel their hatred of banks and especially real estate people, who are kind of keeping the small guy down, keeping the small farmer in a state of being oppressed. nixon has just discovered he is getting money from real estate interests from banking insurance, from oil and so what he does very cleverly and i think with a great deal of success is he makes populism into a style, almost a
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free-floating style and about appearance and about who he is as a person, his own, who he is then terms of ownership. it's not about policy that would actually tame perhaps the thing the original populace wanted to do something about. he's also very good at tying it into his long-held kind of feeling of resentment. he has always hated eastern elites. he hates the fact he didn't get a chance to go to an ivy league institution and went to at what he considered second-rate institutions because he wasn't considered part of those circles and a tie that into another string, heavy strain of anti-intellectualism. the term egghead is right. it's everywhere and it's the way in many ways adlai stevenson is attached. and what nixon is very good at is presenting himself as authentic and i know this is hard to believe but he really
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does come across with his speech and the response his speech gets as authentic and sincere, kind of frank capra populism. it's about me and who i am as a person. and it's fascinating because nixon as we all know was a person who was never comfortable in his skim. for nixon to come off as authentic and believe me i have read the telegrams and letter sent in after the speech, this is how he is perceived. he captured my heart. he brought tears tears to my eyes. i knew he was true by watching them on television. this happens throughout the letters that he gets. it's an amazing that a guy like this can pull that off and he does and what's interesting also about this is the whole notion of him being authentic is obviously all acted out on a stage set in a television studio. this whole notion of there being some authentic person itself is
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already, you have a sense of being staged. in fact "life" magazine wrote a story about the checkers speech in his success later and "life" magazine said it was almost as if the whole thing was scripted by hollywood. but it was too good to be scripted by hollywood. it was too believable and it was really this weird theme of him being authentic and yet also recognizing that his authenticity is setting the stage for the hearts of americans. eisenhower will afterwards say that dick nixon seized the hearts of americans in a speech in which he finally says yes, i'm keeping you as my fice resident and you are wonderful guy. this is the whole idea of the telepopulism. one of the things nixon will do in the speech is not just paint himself as an authentic individual but it knowledgeably goes around the media, a direct address to the american people and he is told very clearly by his advisers and he knows it himself, the media is going to kill you. if you let people come and ask
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you questions and those are the snooty journalist to come and ask you questions, they are going to kill you. codirecting get around those guys and that is what makes it an incredibly important and emotionally charged moment in political speech making. the final thing i will talk about is the style of politics that comes out after the speeches success and nixon continues to campaign. nixon had always wanted to to run a campaign in a certain way and part of the story i tell us how nixon, this is how we should run the campaign and eisenhower says i'm not sure i'm comfortable with all then by the end eisenhower is taken at his word and wants to run a campaign similar to his. this is the way nixon originally envisioned the campaign, writing something i discovered in the archives as well, a letter to a fund-raiser. this campaign, some people in this campaign to be conducted on
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so-called high intellectual plane. there is a republican desire to do that and i think that is actually a smack in adlai stevenson's that we should let bygones be bygones and not pulling up the past mistakes of the truman administration. that after all we have two good candidates for president and in short a little nice powder pub dual and that language, there is a lot of -- i mean if you read a lot of language in 1952, there was always this undertone about homosexuality and this notion that adlai stevenson divorced and never got remarried and what's up with that? maybe he doesn't really like the girls too much and that is what nixon constantly plays upon. we don't want it nice powder puff dual between them. we want to give the american people at chance to make an intelligent choice taste on intelligence. richard nixon says this is not the campaign we are going to
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run. hours will be plain ,-com,-com ma simple straight from the shoulder language that any american can understand with quotations of webster's unabridged dictionary. we are going to have a tough campaign. they constantly try to link up eisenhower nixon constantly try to link up their campaign to football. if there's a college foot wall event going on eisenhower is there. if there's a football event going on nixon is going to be there. they love football and they love the metaphors that football plays for the conceptions of politics. it's right after nixon has given the speech in which eisenhower has said okay you are going to stay on and we are going to fight this together that nixon finally is this moment where he is sitting across from eisenhower in his car, and he says to eisenhower after the speeches gone off and eisenhower has praised him, this is just like war general.
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our opponents are mounting a massive attack against me and they have taken a bad beating. is at this moment that we fight and we go for the jugular. you don't let up. this is really area much the kind of style of campaigning the richard nixon he came known for throughout his political career, not just them. and this is the sort of thing that i want to tease out with a book, to get at sort of the cultural vision of politics that richard nixon has. i think it's a culture, cultural and political vision that we are still with today, the whole kind of taking populism and divorcing it from any economic vision and making it about a personality about whether or not a person is likeable or an ordinary average american. that is still very much with us, the divisive political campaigning where you are trying to drive your point off the cliff is clearly still with us. is a form of politics that is codified in the checkers speech
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but also we are still living with today. that is why wrote the book and again i tried to write this in a way that tells it from the point of both a person who is a historian but also someone who is trying to write it and hopefully an entertaining sort of novelistic approach and that's is where. i'm sure knowing the people here that there are some questions that you probably have of me and i'm happy to take what you have to ask. [applause] thank you. >> thank you kevin. we all want to take your questions. i wish that they were at least skyped so that we could mix of politics and the culture. we are going to use the microphone which is over here, so the viewing audience can hear your question as well. these events are recorded so people who couldn't come tonight
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can also be able to get the benefit of the event. so for those who have questions or a brief comment, please go to the microphone and if you're comfortable, tell us your name. >> i have a request actually for some background, more background on the scandal itself and sort of the atmosphere and all the legal background on campaign financing at that point in time. and how the public felt in general about campaign finance and taking money, getting support, financial support from the people, the rich people and from the industries that the name. what was it like that and, and
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what was the responsibility of presidential candidates as far as disclosing their sources and so forth? >> nixon has lawyers look at what the fund was really about if he was contributing to it, how they contributed to it, whether or not there were any demands tied into their giving them money. and the lawyers, and of course some of us being relatively -- found he was completely in sit-in and that is what they find. most of the laws about campaign finance were laws that had been passed in the progressive era and you know there wasn't a lot of attention paid to campaign finance. this kind of introduces the campaign finance question very quickly. i don't think there was anything illegal. i don't think it past the smell test. i think people look at it suspiciously.
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by the letter cloth no he didn't do this and that was clear. one of the parts of the story that gets kind of messy, that adlai stevenson had a fund that was somewhat similar to nixon's fund and once that emerges, nixon taken money from rich guys and makes them exceptional kind of goes away. there was nothing illegal about it at the letter of the law. it doesn't pass the smell test by in most peoples's mind and the question is, is nixon influenced by the money? there are ways you can see connections between those who are giving him the money in the legislation that he had fought for as a senator up to that point in time and is a congressperson. there is clearly some sense that you have kind of pro-real estate, anti-public housing policies that nixon was doing and there were a lot of real estate men giving them money. my argument though is that i think nixon would have done those things without the money. i think this was a guy who was ideologically committed to kind
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of stripping the new deal as much as he possibly could, getting credit public housing. i think you would have done that without the money at the way it was perceived at the time, i think you know ,-com,-com ma it followed the divisive nature of politics. there were a lot of liberals who showed that nixon was corrupted and he had taken kickbacks. most americans when they're pulling him at this time don't seem to be all that aware of what is happening with this. they have some sense that there is money but there is not a really great detailed understanding. most of the legislation on the books is quite old but he has not ever found doing something that is it legal in something kicks them out of politics. >> what was the response to the charge and what was said about it? >> it's really amazing. the speech itself really is an amazing evasion of the original charges. i mean it is just simply a
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classic he lied and he doesn't really have anything much to say about the original charges that got them into trouble. so, he immediately kind of takes and says okay you know you have heard these charges about how i am correct. the beginning of the speech again having seen it too many times, he gets really tripped up at the end and starts saying, gamma qualified to do that it wasn't really bad and if someone took money that means they should be kicked out of politics and he starts thinking whoa, he seems to be kind of fumbling by the quickly moves into i'm going to tell you something. i'm doing something that has never been done before. i'm going to in my books and show you what i haven't prove that i'm not a rich man. the charges are quickly jumped over and he is back into, i'm a populist, and the man of the people sort of frederick that
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the speech is known for. >> thank you. >> yeah, thinks. >> on the campaign finance, i think it's fair to say that it wasn't much of an issue at that time, and there was not any real enforcement of campaign, whatever the campaign finance laws existed had addressed the. and that didn't change until we had real disclosure beginning in the 1972 campaign in which nixon ended up the committee to reelect president nixon ended up violating the law with all sorts of serious ways and try to prevent disclosure that they have some responsibility for. so, what you had here was in the beginning the secret contributions. no one knew who the $500 limited contributions were.
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>> does turn those over. >> turns it over but in the beginning they didn't know. so the use disclosure as a way of showing his innocence. >> that's right. that's exactly right. he knows that he has -- that he had first tries to say maybe we don't need to tell who these people are and his advisers say, no. you are going to have have to give a list and he gets a list all look like a type of people you would expect to be giving richard dixon money. bankers, oil people and people like that and people who hated the new deal and wanted him to do something about it. >> there is an irony to it too, because like disclosing, it's following the brandeis, that some it is the best disinfectant so he takes his great justice and uses his principle to clear himself of. >> that's right.
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>> you talked about pat nixon thing my husband is a wonderful guy which from the vantage point of today sums sounds that were campaign whites do. was it unusual? >> i think again one of the things that is funny about this story is that after the speech occurs, though the people who are journalists following the campaign in but they say is it's almost like richard nixon is running for president. he is getting ticker people turning out for him and the reason i say that is because this is a vice president. this is not the presidents wife. i think it's a peculiar thing that she is so prominent for being a vice presidents wife. i don't think there is a lot of examples in which --
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i don't think there is a lot of examples where that happens. she is important i think mostly again as kind of a prop. anybody who is asking the question about what was the nature of the relationship, i don't think it's very good. when he goes up to -- she didn't even know he was really going to be potentially chosen and there is a story that she is sitting at a café with her friends watching tv and the announcement comes on. she has just taken a bite out of the sandwich and all of a sudden food flies out of her mouth. oh my god my husband has just been chosen as vice president. i guess i better get back to the convention hall and figure out what's going on. he was asleep and told he has been chosen. he gets into an limousine and gets driven to the convention and they both approached the podium. theirs is moment where his like giving his acceptance way than she comes up to give him a kiss and he just does like that.
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just completely ignores her. i don't think it's a good relationship but i do think one of the things that nixon's people knew was because stephenson looked suspicious, because he was divorced and his ex-wife had actually during the campaign said i'm going to vote in, because she is doing that and there are questions about why does he come off as being fade and elephant are terms used to describe them. nixon's people know one of the things they should do is to get pad out there and to keep hammering home the sky is normal. he likes to watch football. he does all these things that make him a normal guy so i think there is a real concerted effort on the part of nixon to push him front and center. >> this is a little off track but could you comment on the evolution of the republican party today and how richard nixon might fit into it and
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also, can't resist asking your impressions about ohio on the state of the election. >> that's my home state. my wife is guilt tripping me for not being in ohio right now i'm working on the campaign, which she is doing a lot of work on right now. it's a good question. it's a great question and one that i think about a lot and as a historian you are often asked, tell us what -- tell us about the day and there's a part of you that says you get a little but a comfortable because it's a very different context. i give that as my forewarning. i personally think this sort of aggressive cold war foreign-policy that's central to this book, the language rollback, liberation, the kind of characterization of containment is being wimpy and defensive, i think you know the
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central underlying buts of pressed element in that debate between obama and romney on foreign-policy. i think romney, you know i have read in salon about that debate and one of the things i went back and read was from the speech in virginia where he made the kind of bold a statement on foreign-policy. that is a rough speech. that is the speech where he says you know, we should be doing much more about syria and should be keeping more troops in iraq and doing all this sort of stuff. he keeps coming back to this notion that obama is leading this apology tour, that he doesn't really believe in america. i think that language in 1952 about criticizing the democrats as being wimpy on fighting the fight against communism, there is a direct line. on that i feel very safe and there is also direct line about the use of totalitarianism and socialism on the part of the
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chastised within the republican party and the tea party language of today. so i do think that there's a lot of kind of in similarities but what is remarkable to me is that you know, i guess what is odd to me is that ms. -- mitt romney cannot do what richard nixon did. he can't paint himself as an ordinary guy. he can't go can go back and say look at my car and my house, it's an ordinary house and i have this wife. it's just not going to work. if it had been a different candidate of populace thing would be retried by the republicans but they don't have someone that can fit that bill. if some of the domestic policy arguments. to a certain extent nixon needs to do redux. oh, ohio.
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[laughter] to a certain extent i think that there is a gentleman who is staying at my house right now who you will probably not be surprised as working for the obama campaign. he is knocking on doors. when he comes back at 10:00 at night, what you hearing? yes will say over and over again, i'm not going to vote for that rich guy. is a central thing that he gets them on and these are targeted voters. not people that would most likely be romney supporters that he is hearing that over and over. my sense in ohio is it seems familiar and feels a lot like 2004 but with not the same scenario. it feels like there are people who are not satisfied with obama. they are satisfied in part because the auto industry rescue change things in ohio. they are happy with that. unemploymunemploym ent is much lower in ohio than other places but they're there are still discontent with obama and his leadership. when it comes to will you make the jump and vote for romney,
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that is where he is not able to do it. i think of it as similar to with kerry in 2004. i don't like the war and i don't like bush and i don't like all the stuff. are you going to vote for kerry? i don't know what kerry is all about. i i think there is a similarity to that. what i hear is what you hear. it seems to be that obama has held a pretty solid long-term lead over romney that romney has never been of the close that gap and my sense of it on the ground is that strikes me that the polls are probably right that way. but you know, no predictions. >> heaven i want to take you back to -- we love this insight into ohio but i want to take you back to the discussion about foreign-policy in republican
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party. because in the 52 campaign, george marshall was under tremendous attack and we think of george marshall really as a heroic figure and i think a lot of people thought at the time as well. certainly harry truman did, and eisenhower did not defend marshall when mccarthy attacked him. this was seen as a the trail. and that tension then came out when eisenhower makes an early appointment in his administration and he picks some classy people like chip boland to be ambassador to the soviet union, and the mccarthy crowd fought it. and so, this seems to still play itself out in different ways
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now. if you look at the new start trading on arms control, which everyone in the military was passionately for, and yet it was very difficult to squeeze out current republican votes for that. we still find different ways that this expresses itself and it may have implications for the next four years. on the foreign-policy question. >> is pretty bold and aggressive and folks i don't think would make the break with the kind of hard right-wing in his own party. i think in 1952 europe salute the right. there are so many stories in this book that i can't do justice to. >> that is why the book should be read. >> it's one of the best stories that eisenhower finds himself
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faced with two senators who are running that he feels very uncomfortable about. one is the republican senator from indiana. jenner made mccarthy look like a pipsqueak on the attack against martial. he called him a traitor to the country and a person who didn't deserve to have any power whatsoever and he was selling the country out. it's just amazing to watch. eisenhower deeply admired martial and he was completely and absolutely flabbergasted by this and yet it comes time for eisenhower to go to indiana to campaign and jenner is right up there pumping his hand and keeps raising eisenhower's hand to wave to the people and stuff like that. eisenhower's like i don't know if i want to do that but he does it. there's a famous moment when eisenhower has a speech in which he is going to be giving on the